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Monks of the long death belong to the Order of the Long Death monastic order. These monks study the nature of death, and are particularly interested by the moment of passing. They don't bother about the afterlife or nature of the soul. The ceremony of introduction is filled with hideous acts meant to test the resolve of initiates. As they become more powerful, they gain limited abilities related to death and study alchemy, poisons, and resistance to death effects.
Though the organization known as the Monks of the Long Death is strongest in Thay, it does have monasteries in several other parts of Faerûn, including the Silver Marches. Some two dozen members of the order dwell in a hidden stronghold built long ago by unknown hands in the Turnstone Hills, not far from where the pass is blocked by a gigantic landslide. From here the monks pursue their one abiding interest: death.
These monks seek for the secrets of life by studying death. It is the condition of being dead that concerns them most, and not what lies beyond: The afterlife holds little interest for them. Their laboratories are full of decaying, dying, and dead animal and plant specimens that they study with detached interest; they frequently purchase rare specimens that they cannot obtain easily themselves from adventurers and merchants. But such studies are only part of the monks' daily life: They seek to understand death as it pertains especially to intelligent living beings.
To this end, they exhume corpses from crypts and graveyards, and then they transport the corpses to their monastery. There they examine the cadavers in their well-stocked laboratory and observe them as they decompose. They also - and it is for this that they are most reviled and feared - purchase living slaves and put them to death, slowly, recording their observations and asking the perishing slaves questions about their fatal experience. Slaves are hard to come by in the Silver Marches, however, because Lady Alustriel and her confederations condemn the practice. The order has been obliged to obtain its living specimens by other means, such as abducting them from outlying farmsteads and poorly-defended hamlets in the dead of night. The monks suffer no moral qualms about these deeds: Death is the most natural thing in the world, from their perspective, and to expire in service to its principle is the most profoundly holy experience any living being can hope to enjoy. It is for this reason that the monks themselves do not fear death, and while they may study the dead, they do not seek that state themselves.
Most of the order's members are either scholars who share mutual fascination with and worship of death and dying, or clergy who worship one of the deities concerned with death. Some of the monks consider themselves to be nothing less than visionaries whose work will pave the way for a better future for all Faerûn: When death is truly understood, it can be harnessed and used as a tool for the betterment of all, or so they rationalize to themselves. Others who take the Vows of Death could not possibly care less about anything other than increasing their personal measure of understanding about their chosen subject.
The Monks of the Long Death are easily recognized by their pale skin and gaunt features. They eat little, and they spend most of their time inside their monasteries, in crypts and graveyards, and other dark places where there is little natural light. They affect the trappings of death in their garb, wearing long, dark robes and shroudlike hooded cloaks to hide their features. Though fearful of those who do not understand them and who might seek to thwart their studies, they can be civil hosts if approached by learned folk who offer to share knowledge or wisdom. Their narrow vision and single-mindedness makes them dull hosts, however, and the rigid structure of their society seems quite stifling to outsiders.